Bullying has become more complex in the past decade due in part to advances in technology, particularly the development of the Internet, and the widespread use of cellphones. Learn How to Stop Cyberbullying in Australia Now!
To prevent cyberbullying, it is essential to first understand what it is and how to identify it. Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, harass, or emotionally harm another person. The repercussions of cyberbullying are not limited to technology however. The feelings of anger, fear, humiliation, and depression can, and usually do, carry over to everyday life.
How Does Cyberbullying Happen?
- People obtain pictures of you to send them to others via picture message or on the Internet in order to embarrass or ridicule you.
- People use the Internet to talk about you negatively on a public forum, such as Facebook or Twitter, where others can see.
- People harass you verbally via text messages, emails, or Internet forums.
- People obtain the passwords to your social networking pages, such as Facebook, and use it to tamper with your information in order to humiliate you.
- People use their influence or threats to stop other people from communicating with you so that you feel isolated and alone.
Because the Internet and cell phones can be found in every country, cyberbullying can be found in all parts of the world. The suicide of Charlotte Dawson—model, author, and diligent campaigner against cyberbullying—in February of 2014 brought cyberbullying in Australia back into the spotlight and has spawned new discussion on cyberbullying laws. Dawson was herself the victim of cyberbullying via Twitter and Facebook, where anonymous figures urged her to kill herself. Charlotte Dawson’s suicide is an example of the ultimate harm caused by cyberbullying.
Why is Cyberbullying So Dangerous?
- Videos, pictures, and personal information can be spread quickly and without discretion, reaching a large audience in a matter of moments.
- Bullies can remain anonymous, making them more vicious and hurtful.
- Cyberbullying is hard to regulate, and many victims will not tell their parents or loved ones they are being harassed until it is too late.
- It is nearly impossible to punish cyberbullies.
- Once something, such as a picture, is put onto the Internet, it is nearly impossible to take off, even when legal action is taken.
- Technology is used in nearly every school and work place in the world, so it is impossible for most students and workers to avoid using technology all together.
- Cyberbullies can by relentless; they are able to change their online identities numerous times without ever using their real names.
So who exactly is affected by cyberbullying? The most basic answer is everyone, but adolescents are the group most often affected. It is important for parents to watch for warning signs that their child is the victim of cyberbullying.
Statistics on Cyberbullying in Australia
- According to Queensland Government (www.qld.gov.au), 91% of Australian teens age 14-17 get on the Internet at least once a week, mainly to check social media sites like Facebook or to talk to their friends through emails or messaging.
- Of those who reported being bullied, 83% said they were cyberbullied by people that they not only knew personally, but who they considered to be their friends.
- 40% of youths under the age of 18 worry about receiving hostile or demeaning texts, emails, or messages.
Parents who are worried that their child might be the target of cyberbullying should be educated about where and when cyberbullying can take place.
Where Are People Most Likely to Be Cyberbullied?
- Social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Springform; all of these websites have features that allow others to post public comments, privately message people, “chat” with other users privately, and post pictures and videos of anyone or anything that they choose
- Email, via sites like Hotmail or Yahoo, where anyone who obtains another person’s email address can send private messages
- Via chat rooms
- On gaming sites, where game players can talk to other players on public chat forums or through private messages
- On Blogs, or personal webpages where individuals write about their thoughts and ideas, and others read them
- Through messages on their phone; anyone who knows their phone number can send them harassing texts or pictures
In reality, no one is completely safe from being cyberbullied. Anyone who regularly uses a computer either for school or work, has a social media page such as Facebook, or who owns a cell phone can become the target of a cyberbully. For the friends and family of cyberbully victims, the signs that someone they love is being cyberbullied are not immediately clear. However, sometimes close attention can help prevent cyberbullying from continuing.
Signs That Someone Is a Victim of Cyberbullying
- They are suddenly reluctant to use the internet or their cell phone.
- They become hostile and withdrawn.
- They become easily angered and lash out at those around them.
- Their school work and extracurricular activities start to suffer or become neglected.
- They frequently claim to be ill to avoid going to school or social events.
- They abruptly stop socializing with people they previously considered friends.
After the suicide of Charlotte Dawson, a new anti-cyberbullying bill, dubbed Charlotte’s Law, was proposed and presented to Australian legislation. It calls for tougher reinforcement of existing laws regarding cyberbullying in Australia, and for social media networks to take more responsibility for what is posted on their websites. However, social media sites are presented with massive amounts of information daily, and it is virtually impossible for them to catch all instances of cyberbullying. It is up to parents and individuals to safeguard their children and themselves as best they can against cyberbullies.
Steps to Prevent Cyberbullying
- Do not share private information, such as telephone numbers, email addresses, or home addresses, on any social media site. Once online, your information can be accessed and used by nearly anyone.
- If messaged or texted by a stranger, do not respond. If someone sends you a harassing or derogatory message online, save the message to show to website officials and block the user so they cannot send anything else or see your personal page.
- Use the security options provided by whichever website you are on. Most social media sites will have the option to hide personal information from anyone who is not approved.
- Do not send revealing pictures to another person, even if they are someone you consider a close friend. Once you send someone a picture, it becomes their property to do with as they please.
- Tell an adult or someone you trust immediately if you are being bullied online, especially if it is by someone you know. Stopping a cyberbully can not only be beneficial to you, but to their future victims.
- For persistent and serious cases of cyberbullying or online harassment, contact the Australian Human Rights Commission at 1 300 656 419.
The laws on cyberbullying for each state and territory in Australia are different. However, cyberbullying is never ok, no matter where you live. For more information on cyberbullying laws and resources, visit www.cybersmart.gov.au/report.aspx.
Cyberbullying is extremely dangerous and can cause long term mental distress as well as suicidal thoughts and actions. Know the warning signs of cyberbullying, where you or your children are most likely to face cyberbullying, and how to protect yourselves and your loved ones from cyberbullies.